shapes of blue
I will envy the birds upon whose wings
the crimson rays of a lying sun fall,
a wine that courses through the lungs of things
pulses now and threatens to silence all.
But the way vodka sauce paints the canvas
of every kitchen I’ve ever danced in,
the ceaseless tide and unsteady sky kiss
between the people I have never been.
I scream through doors, echoes in midnight hues
that find their way across the walls I breathe.
I do not feel their pretty shapes of blue
and cannot return to the winding sea—
do you now hear me locked within this house,
a madness felt by those who go without.
McKenna Themm is an MFA student at San Diego State University. Her poems have been published by The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Poet, Bryant Literary Review, The Evening Street Press & Review, The Headlight Review, and New Plains Review, among others. Her chapbook Ever Yours, Vincent is forthcoming from dancing girl press. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of boats against the current, the managing editor at The Los Angeles Review, a Content Strategist at Archer Education, and the MFA Director’s Assistant at SDSU.
The crowd turned in a frenzy sweeping up everything in its path, and we couldn’t stop it or avoid it. We tried to push back or shelter or escape it, but there were bodies everywhere and everyone in a panic, and we couldn’t see, and we choked on the fumes and our eyes watered from the tear gas, and we stumbled and fell and grabbed arms and legs and dragged ourselves forward. But we couldn’t hold on, and so they trampled us, stepping on our hands and backs, and we screamed, but the crowd absorbed the sound – our faces frozen in terror and our good intentions smashed to dust under the boots of our neighbours and the butts of rifles swung from the hands of not-quite children. And we prayed, but no one was listening.
Rena was born and raised in California, but has since lived, loved and worked all over the world. She is a passionate writer and educator. She loves new ideas and encourages different perspectives. Her actions reflect her philosophy of responsibility, respect, and innovation in an environment where quality and inclusivity go hand in hand. She strives to make a positive difference in her community and in the world. She believes we succeed together.
The Piano Man
The first time you visited him at the hospital, there was a gray, thin man who played at the piano. His hands were shaking, but his notes were pristine white flames. By chance you and your friend are talking about those years when you would see him like that, shuffling to the visitor station in ill-fitting jeans and fuzzy slippers. The memory brings the musician to mind, but your friend shakes his head when you ask if they stayed in touch. The piano player is gone, he tells you. Infuriated by the voices in the treble bridge, he'd hurled himself through that double paned window. Landed right on the doorstep of the shop where they made the toffee twist donuts you'd bring with black tea. You can still recall what the man sang. I'm sure that I could be a movie star if I could get out of this place. … The ragged edge of him quietly burned a hole right through you. Sad, isn't it? your friend says, and you both know what the other is thinking - how easily it might have been one of you, instead, how hard you had both tried to abandon ship along the way. You think about the piano man on the psych ward at Mount Sinai, how he might not know that anyone had noticed his music, that anyone might notice him missing. Or maybe he did. It wouldn't be enough. You tell your friend you are bereft during the times that you lose touch with each other. Sometimes it's like that: you are seized with a small and sudden panic over circumstances you can't control. You think about the thin man, how he had already been a ghost. His heart of glass, that pale blue flare.
Lorette C. Luzajic
پیانو بجانے والا آدمی
جب تم پہلی بار اسے ملنے ہسپتال گئے، تو وہاں ايک سرمئی دبلا آدمی تھا۔ اس کے ہاتھ کانپ رہے تھے، مگر اسکے نوٹس، خالص سفید شعلے تھے۔ اتفاق سے تم اور تمہارا دوست ان سالوں کے بارے ميں باتیں کر رہے ہو، جب تم اسے اس حالت میں دیکھتے تھے، غلط ناپ کی پتلون اور دھاگے کے ریشوں سے ڈھکی چپل پہنے، ملاقات کی جگہ پر گھسٹتے ہوئے آتے ہوئے۔ يہ یاد اس موسیقار کو تمہارے ذہن میں لاتی ہے، مگر تمہارا دوست نفی میں سر ہلاتا ہے جب تم اس سے پوچھتے ہو کہ کیا وہ رابطے میں رہے یا نہیں۔ پیانو بجانے والا وہ شخص جا چکا ہے، وہ تمہيں بتاتا ہے۔ تین حسوں والے پل سے آنے والی آوازوں کی وجہ سے غصے میں آ کر، اس نے خود کو دو حصوں والی کھڑکی سے باہر پھینک دیا۔ سیدھا اس دکان کی دہلیز میں گرا جہاں وہ ٹوفی ٹوسٹ ڈونٹس بنتے تھے۔ جو تم چائے کے ساتھ لیتے تھے۔ تم ابھی بھی وہ یاد کر سکتے ہو جو وہ آدمی گاتا تھا: مجھے یقین ہے کہ میں ایک فلمی ستارا ہوتا اگر میں اس جگہ سے نکل پاتا۔ ۔۔۔ اس کی بکھرتی ہوئی حد نے تمہيں اندر سے جلا کر ایک سراخ کر دیا۔ افسوس ناک، ہینا؟ تمہارا دوست کہتا ہے، اور تم دونوں میں ہر کوئی جانتا ہے کہ دوسرا کیا سوچ رہا ہے – کتنا آسان تھا کہ تم دونوں میں سے کوئی ایک ہوتا، بجائے اس کے، کتنی کوشش کی تم دونوں نے کہ بحری جہاز رستے میں چھوڑ دیتے۔ تم کوہ طور پر نفسیاتی وارڈ میں پیانو بجانے والے آدمی کے بارے میں سوچتے ہو، کیسے وہ ناآشنا ہو گا کہ کسی نے اس کی موسیقی پہ دیہان دیا تھا، کہ کوئی اس کی عدم موجودگی کو شاید خاطر میں لائے۔ یا شاید وہ جانتا تھا۔ يہ کافی نہیں ہو گا۔ تم اپنے دوست کو بتاتے ہو کہ تم اداس ہو جاتے ہو جب تم دونوں کا رابطہ منقطع ہو جاتا ہے۔ بعض اوقات یہ اس طرح ہوتا ہے: تم پر ان حالات کی چھوٹى اور غیرمتوقع پریشانی ہاوی ہو جاتی ہے، جن پر تمہارا اختیار نہیں۔ تم اس دبلے آدمی کے بارے میں سوچتے ہو، کیسے وہ پہلے سے ہی ایک روح تھا۔ اس کا شیشے کا دل۔ وہ مدھم نیلی روشنی۔
Piano Bajanay Waala Aadmi
Jab tum pehli baar usay milnay haspataal gaye, tou wahaan aik surma'ee dubla aadmi tha jo piano bajata tha. Us kay haath kaanp rahay thay, magar uskay notes, khaalis safaid sholay thay. Ittefaaq se tum aur tumhara dost un saalon ke baray me batain kar rahay hou, jab tum usay iss haalat me dekhtay thay, ghalat naap ki patloon aur dhaagay kay reshon se dhaki chappal pehnay, mulaqaat ki jagha par ghisat-tay huay aatay huay. Ye yaad us moseeqaar ko tumharay zehn me laati hai, magar tumhara dost nafi mein sar hilaata hai jab tum uss say poochtay hou keh kia wo raabtay me rahay ya nahin. Piano bajanay waala wo shakhs ja chuka hai, wo tumhain batata hai. Teen hisson walay pull se anay waali aawaazon ki wajha se ghussay mein aa kar, usnay khud ko dou hisson waali khirki se baahir phenk dia. Seedha us dokaan ki dehleez mein gira jahan wo toffee twist donuts banatay thay jo tum chai k saath laatay thay. ... Tum abhi bhi yaad karsaktay hou jo woh aadmi gaata tha: mujhe yaqeen hai keh mein aik filmi sitara houta agar mein is jagah se nikal paata. Uski bikharti hui hadd ne tumhain andar se jalaa kar aik suraakh kar dia. Afsos naak, haina? tumhara dost kehta hai, aur tum dono me se har koi jaanta hai key dusra kia soch raha hai: kitna asaan tha keh, tum dono me se koi aik houta, bajaye uskay, kitni koshish ki tum dono ne keh behri jahaaz rastay mein chor daitay. Tum Sinai Pahaar par nafsyaati ward mein piano bajanay waalay aadmi k baaray mein sochtay hou, kaisay woh na-aashna' houga keh kisi ne uski mauseeqi par shayad dehaan diya tha, keh koi uski adum-mojoodgi ko shayad khaatir mein laaye. Ya shayad woh jaanta tha. Yeh kaafi nahi houga. Tum apnay dost ko batatay hou key tum udaas hojatay hou jab tum dono ka raabta munqata hou jaata hai. Baaz auqaat yeh istarha hota hai: tum par un halaat ki choti aur ghair mutawaqa'ah pareshani haavi hojaati hai, jin par tumhain ikhtiyaar nahin. Tum us dublay aadmi ke baaray mein sochtay hou, kaisay woh pehlay se hi aik rooh tha. Us ka sheeshay ka dil. Woh madham neeli roshni.
Translated by Maraam Pasha and Saad Ali
“The Piano Man” has previously appeared in The Miramichi Reader, in Blue Heron Review, and in print in Pretty Time Machine by Lorette C, Luzajic (Mixed Up Media Books, 2020).
Maraam Pasha (b. 1999 C.E. in Lahore, Pakistan) has been raised in Rawalpindi & Islamabad, Pakistan. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting & Finance from the National University of Pakistan, Pakistan. She has been published in The Ekphrastic Review. She finds literature a way to connect with both herself and others. Her other interests include: photography, painting, music, baking, and sculpting. She shares her artistic creations on her page: www.instagram.com/maraam_pasha.
Saad Ali (b. 1980 C.E. in Okara, Pakistan) has been educated and brought up in the United Kingdom (UK) and Pakistan. He holds a BSc and an MSc in Management from the University of Leicester, UK. He is an existential philosopher, poet, and translator. Ali has authored five books of poetry. His latest collection of poetry is called Owl Of Pines: Sunyata (AuthorHouse, 2021). He is a regular contributor to The Ekphrastic Review. By profession, he is a Lecturer, Consultant, and Trainer/Mentor. Some of his influences include: Vyasa, Homer, Ovid, Attar, Rumi, Nietzsche, and Tagore. He is fond of the Persian, Chinese, and Greek cuisines. He likes learning different languages, travelling by train, and exploring cities on foot. To learn more about his work, please visit www.facebook.com/owlofpines.
Lorette C. Luzajic is the founder and editor of The Ekphrastic Review. Her widely published flash fiction and prose poetry is usually inspired by visual art.
On Andrew Wyeth’s Public Sale, 1943
An old farmer forced to sell the place
after his wife’s long illness. It’s just as well―
the land had grown sick, too, the ochre hills
now whispering of death, the near-bare trees
lisping loss, the graying sky sighing
Just off the dirt road leading to the house,
people swarming like crickets, scavenging
through barrels and baskets and harvesters
and ploughs for bargains, steals and giveaways.
The old pick-up truck, having hauled many
a load of wood and livestock and grain,
now sits rusty, no life in its bed, only traces
of sun-kissed blueberries and silken stalks
of corn and golden-red kindling for the fire
that must have raged tenderly just inside
the clapboard building where cast-iron pot
atop cold furnace still invites the fire.
Which objects bespeak life in this
solitary place? The husked, seed corn
roped across barn rafters, the hollowed-out
bread trough on rough, log-hewn kitchen
table, the faded blue apron thrown over nail
on cedar-paneled wall? What of hand-
crafted baby crib, a yellowing christening
gown and cobwebs its only décor?
The enameled bedpan at the foot
of four-poster bed, now a nesting berth
for rats and lizards and other critters?
What will witness of life? What will testify
in silence to love? For while the earth
remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.
Jo Taylor is a retired, 35-year English teacher from Georgia. Her favourite genre to teach high school students was poetry, and today she dedicates more time to writing it, her major themes focused on family, place, and faith. She says she writes to give testimony to the past and to her heritage. She has been published in several print and on-line journals, including The Ekphrastic Review, and in 2021 she published her first collection of poems, Strange Fire.
These poems were written this fall in a reflective writing workshop with Toronto based Hong Fook Mental Health Association. We contemplated a variety of artworks, including works by contemporary and historical Asian artists, artists suggested by participants, art by participants, Canadian art, and more. Thank you so much to the poets for showing your work to the world!
"blue night" is inspired by Starry Night by Matthew Wong (Canada) 2019, at 1.15 in above video.
in the night, it is quieter, calmer
the sky like blankets - thick, soft, heavy, held
it isn’t warmer, but comforting all the same.
i am flattened by darkness
life is fuzzy and and and and
my thoughts are smaller.
it is black in darkness but,
most blacks are blue, in reality
there is softness, there is depth
blues are heavy in a way unexplained.
heavy, but not cloying
there are no promises in a blue night
the world breathes quiet and holds me here.
in the night, the colour floats like a cape
a weight i chose, and so too, it is done.
the way it has been - forever.
Winsome Adelia Tse
This work was inspired by the painting Nocturntable, by the above artist, Duy Huynh, the fifth image at this link: click here.
Secluded far away from the city of lights, lies ominously a sleepless pond of lily pads. As the water lilies slumber deep into the moonless night, a heron as glossy as white crystal pearls lingers over an ancient antique forgotten as the course of time moves into a new era. Just a little peak from the bird's beak, the record player dances a fragile tune that displays its hoarse voice from not singing for aeons. As it scratches the surface of the vinyl discs, where the dust bunnies float like cherry blossoms wafting down the trees during the autumn seasons, the melody merges into the soothing zephyr. The gloomy clouds surrendered to unveil the iridescent sky with a celestial body beaming, gleaming the small oasis and leaving the scene like a dreamlike state. Gradually, the lilies wake from their morning snooze, blooming life all around the majestic creature and the vintage audio device. Mumbled words that were no longer spoken and sounds that are constantly cracking and fading, nonetheless bringing nearby objects alive like a marionette performing a ballet controlled by songs played from above. Words and phrases mean nothing, yet the music speaks universally to all. Silently humming tunes where just between the two of us can listen in a harmonious paradise.
Janet L. lives in Toronto, Canada. She got interested in writing not too long ago and was pleasantly surprised by how exciting it is. She enjoys playing video games, reading graphic novels and listening to a variety of music genres (from Kpop to gaming soundtracks and Eurobeat). She is currently a college student.
waters of secret
large pads of lily, of lotus, of legend
a far off mist creeps into your gaze.
eyes lose focus, thoughts elsewhere
to mystery unfolding…
“Tonight, I have met my crane wife,”
is that how it goes?
a memory soaked in water,
fish eye lens,
‘delicious,’ - that was the bird.
I am myself and you and her and they…
they meet in shadowed jungle, - or was it forest?
we are lost in the moment
my beautiful bride
poised to meet me in secret.
a moment stolen all we can
“Hello again, my Love”
Winsome Adelia Tse
Poem After Aurore Sculpture
Once upon a time
Lighthearted in a family house
Harmony was the world
Plane fled like a shot
Solutions appeared as magic
Cinderella would be my future
Awake in my bed
Depressed living alone in an apartment
Conflict through the world
Plane moves as weather
Solutions require logic
Lars* is who I am
*Lars is a fictional character from the movie, Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
Poem for Cynthia Tom's Painting
Leaving the bamboo house
Through a mist of blue and miles of mountain to a distant ground
Home over my head
Toilsome cultivation for a living
But rice nowhere to be found
Deserted farmland, east meets west
Seed grows a modern Woman
Standing on farm soil yet a root to be found
In the outskirt of the farm
Glad to find the taste of home
a safe of my own
it is warm again.
sigh, exhale, weightless
in my mind, i return to the sunlit meadow again
i am glowing, softly.
i think of none and of calm and of being alight
the air - oh, it is warm again.
fingertips pressed against expanse of clear glass
stillness, but not rigid
soak in it like a feeling of goodness
the sky is blue but my eyelids are gold-orange
it is warm; i could stand here all day,
it is warm; there is nothing waiting on me,
it is warm - and so it is,
it is warm again.
Winsome Adelia Tse
caught in a storm
What must it feel like for skin to change,
The shift beneath the surface
Bone, sinew, flesh -
Moving… rearranging… pushing...
Out at your fingertips.
Are you still yourself?
Have you ever been?
a conflict within:
in myself, two sides, - or perhaps more
tugging me to form
shaping me to their nature and whim
at mercy of thunderous forces
when i am rocked to sleep by naked discomfort
of which i find no cause, no completion
my skin wraps around me and hums -
i cannot say the change as it happens
i cannot name it until i am of the otherside
if i find myself there -
A new presence,
A new sound to ear, -
i shall find it,
body as anew.
Winsome Adelia Tse
in the leaves, i see my mother’s eyes
they look at me, repeating on each branch,
they rustle but don’t blink
if i close my eyes, the angels will sing again
so i paint like they say, and maybe tomorrow
i will see Mother again
when the wind sings instead, the angels are quiet
my heart flows like a breeze picking up fallen debris
my mother smiles at me in the branches and
i smile back big and i sing
i am her angel and i sing and i paint and
i keep my eyes open wide to see her,
between the trees
Winsome Adelia Tse
Winsome Adelia Tse is an artist, designer, and creative from Greater Toronto, Canada. She works in a variety of media on themes of introspection, beauty, and the monumental within the mundane. Though her professional work manifests visually, she often finds her personal thoughts and immediate response of experiencing the world spilling out onto pages as poetry. Regardless of final product, her process is as much intellectualized, as it is visualized. She sees each creation as its own contained story, worth telling no matter grand or fleeting. A selection of her visual works is on her artist portfolio, www.winsomeadeliatse.com.
The new prompt is up! Click on the image above for details about our challenges.
In E.J. Bellocq’s faded flash of time
A woman curves across a straight-backed seat.
A mantle, dripping fringe, enfolds her frame.
Her zebra hose are gartered. Still, a neat
White wedge of unobstructed thigh,
Pale as her hollowed underarm is dark,
Remains to captivate your roving eye
And hint the human nature of her work.
An elbow, bent, supports her heavy head,
Connecting her to all her treasured things:
Carved table, nymph or goddess caught in lead,
Silver clock, tiny rockers tipped with wings.
And though the moment here appears to stop,
The clock’s hands fixed, forever pointing up,
See how the rooted objects writhe toward change:
The table legs twist taut as if they could
Bore up to bud in open air. The strange
Statue swirls, Daphne changing flesh for wood,
The little feathered rockers tense for flight
To the grave of Laveau, their Voodoo queen,
Chafing until the depths of red-lit night
When they can swarm, then wing away unseen.
And the woman, at rest from evening wiles,
Turns toward her own deliverance, and smiles.
Kate Ravin, a freelance writer, lives in Atlanta, Georgia. She has served as poetry editor at XS magazine, a subsidiary of South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel newspaper, and been published in The Lyric magazine and The Road Not Taken: The Journal of Formal Poetry.
“If you love learning about art and artists and if you love writing, Lorette's workshops are the perfect place to twine those loves together! Comfortable, educational and inspiring, these two enjoyable hours fly by. And like me, you may linger breathing in the riches of The Ekphrastic Review for your heart and soul.” Fran Turner
We are grateful for these testimonials from our workshop participants. Thank you for your generous responses and for being part of these inspiring events! Click on image above to read more testimonials.
Our workshops are generative- come prepared to write! They are also intimate, friendly, welcoming, supportive, and challenging. All are welcome.
Our objective is to expand and grow our workshop events next year, to have an ongoing space for inspiring ekphrastic writing, to gather together as a community for work and fun, to promote art history education, and to grow as writers.
We have a number of workshops lined up for December and next year, including Wine and Art Write Night, an introduction to ekphrastic writing, and Love Stories. Join us!
A Thunder Storm
The storm raged on for many days,
Endlessly pummelling the sage
And his apprentice, night by night,
But they took comfort in its rage.
Hiding beneath a craggy ridge,
They watched along the mountainsides
The elemental beauty of
The storm erupt before their eyes.
They watched the storm in all its grace,
In every stage, from nascent clouds
Into the hoary majesty
Of thunderheads swarming in crowds,
Until at last the tempest fades
Away and empty skies of grey
Remain like consciousness in an
Old man who slowly fades away.
A glimmer too, of light, appeared--
The kind we only see, perhaps,
When we have reached the end of ends,
When we have run life’s final laps.
The travellers spoke of many things
Throughout that storm: the student asked
His master many questions on
His travels and his loves, his pains.
The sage replied, “It’s a long story”--
Pausing, he calmly looked into
The parting sea of gilded clouds,
“One day, you’ll know your story too.”
David Gosselin is a poet, translator, and linguist based in Montreal. He is the founder of The Chained Muse poetry website and New Lyre Podcast. His first collection of poems is entitled Modern Dreams.
We we make our way through the entries for our last contest, it is time to announce our new one!
The theme this time is Fifty Shades of Blue.
We have compiled an intriguing array of visual art throughout history and the world, on the theme of blue. This ebook includes fifty works of art to inspire your ekphrastic writing practice. It is $10 and purchase also qualifies you to enter five stories or poems, if purchased before the contest deadline.
A selection of finalists will be chosen and published in February. One flash fiction and one poem will each win first place and $100CAD.
Deadline: January 31, 2022
1. Flash fiction and poetry only. Each submission must be inspired by one of the selected artworks in the Fifty Shades of Blue ebook.
2. Word limit for both is 1000.
3. Up to five poems, five stories, or a combination of both. Please submit all of your entries together in one email.
4. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight EST, January 31, 2022.
5. Include a brief bio of 100 words or less.
6. Subject line: BLUE CONTEST.
7. We especially encourage flash fiction and microfiction as we have received volumes more poetry than fiction in the last few contests and all of our challenges!
8. Purchase of ebook qualifies you to enter, up to five works.
9. Winners will be paid by PayPal.
Fifty Shades of Blue: 50 Art Prompts to Inspire Your Ekphrastic Writing Practice
A carefully curated selection of fifty blue-themed artworks throughout art history and the world, intended to inspire your ekphrastic creative writing practice.
The Ekphrastic Review
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